Eligibility an issue as FCD will now be invited to all Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools tournaments

Posted by Andy Durham on January 14, 2009 at 6:40 pm under High School | 14 Comments to Read

from one of our readers by way of the Winston-Salem Journal and journalnow.com, with article by Mason Linker(W-SJ):

Teams from Forsyth Country Day have been occasional participants in high-school tournaments run by the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, but until last weekend, no FCD team had competed in one since 2006.

Things changed at Saturday’s city/county swim championships, when FCD swimmers became the first to benefit from a recent agreement between officials from the WSFCS and FCD.

FCD now will be invited to all tournaments run by the school system, including the high-profile Mary Garber and Frank Spencer basketball tournaments. Superintendent Don Martin said that the agreement was reached after several meetings between the groups.

To play in the tournaments, FCD officials agreed to comply with the “eight-semester rule” of the N.C. High School Athletic Association. That rule says that no athlete will be eligible for more than eight straight semesters, starting with entry into ninth grade or participation on a high-school team, whichever comes first.

FCD competes in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association, which allows varsity participation on high-school teams by seventh- and eighth-graders. Some students who transfer to FCD also are reclassified and repeat a grade.

Martin said that the eight-semester rule was the biggest wrinkle to iron out.

“The argument was they didn’t have the same rules with eligibility of players, and that is true,” Martin said. “I met with Hank Battle (FCD’s headmaster) and Rusty (LaRue, FCD’s athletics director and boys basketball coach), and we needed to figure out a way that they essentially follow the NCHSAA eligibility rules, and they agreed.

“We wanted to define that, so we wouldn’t have fifth-year seniors playing against our kids. If you look at it, they have a good following, they are here in the county, and people are asking about it every year, wondering why they weren’t in the tournaments. I just thought we needed to correct this.”

LaRue said that FCD doesn’t have to accept all tournament invitations — the baseball and softball teams will not play this spring because of scheduling conflicts — but added that he hopes that will not happen in the future.

“We agreed that athletes that came here and repeated a year, they won’t play in the tournaments (when they are seniors),” LaRue said. “As a basketball coach, you hate to have a kid sitting out. But any kid that says they want to repeat a year, we will tell them they won’t be allowed to play in city/county tournaments. That’s to be up front with kids.

“I think we can bring a lot to the table, resourcewise, manpowerwise and maybe even facilitywise to help out. The bottom line is what’s best for the kids. Our kids grow up in the same neighborhoods as the public-school kids, and they want to play each other.”

Howard West, the AD and boys basketball coach at Reagan, said that the decision by WSFCS ADs to keep FCD out of the tournaments came down to basketball.

“Basketball is such a high-profile sport,” West said. “Without question, I think it boils down to one sport. It’s the most visible. (FCD is) not a football powerhouse or anything like that. The Frank Spencer is the most high-profile tournament there is, and they want to be a part of it.”

West said he was fine with Martin’s decision as long as the playing field is level.

“As long as we don’t have to play against the almost 20-year-olds, I am fine,” West said. “If they are one of the best teams around and have a marquee player that can help raise money (for the Frank Spencer), then it could be a good thing.”

Martin said that other Forsyth County schools outside the WSFCS were not invited to the tournaments, in part, because they haven’t asked.

“If others requested, we would have a conversation and make sure this eligibility thing is clear,” Martin said. “We would be happy to have that conversation with every other school in the county. I don’t think some of the other schools have any real desire to play in them, though.”


  • joe said,

    The Pizza Hut Little Four tournament needs to follow the Forsyth County School’s lead and require Greensboro Day to do the same thing. Promoting the tournament as the best high school tournament in the south is misleading when the team that wins it every year uses 5th year players. GDS should play by the same rules as all the teams in the tournament.

  • Tom said,

    I attended the Little Four tournament for the first time this year. The reason that GDS won the tournament this year was because they were the best coached team. By no means did they have the best talent. It would be unfair to restrict GDS from participating because of the appearance of an undue advantage. You would then have to restrict Dudley because they are able to recruit athletes via the Academy. You would have to restrict Grimsley and Page because they can recruit athletes vis the IB program. In basketball, as in life, you will very rarely find a level playing field. From what I saw, the Little Four tournament is just fine and should be left alone.

  • kirk said,

    The Little Four is a financial windfall for the teams that get invited. For the public schools that are invited the money they can make on this event more than double most basketball budgets. The public schools badly need this event.

    Tom has a good point in that GDS was the best team. That’s true. Best coached? Maybe, probably. But it does help to be able to scholarship and keep a kid an extra year. You can’t deny that. Joe’s point is very reasonable that from an eligibility standpoint it would be nice if the playing field were level. All that aside, most public schol AD’s could care less. No one is going to complain with the check they take home from that event.

  • frank said,

    GDS is very well coached. It is easy to be well coached when you have players who have played for you one more year than other coaches. A fifth year of high school is a huge advantage. That is why FCDS was not allowed into the Forsyth County tournaments until they agreed not to play eighth graders or fifth year seniors. The Little Four is a big money maker, no one wants to drop out. Poll every coach in the tournament and my guess it would be 7-1 against allowing eighth graders and fifth year seniors.

    Andy you should get a poll up and ask that question or does money on this site talk too much too and make it something that you don’t want mentioned.

  • Tom said,

    This is the only time during the year that local public schools get to play GDS. As a former player, I would have relished the opportunity to play the best team in the area. I think the only people who have issues with playing GDS are the fans of the teams that are losing to GDS. As a fan of one the local public schools, I want GDS in the tourney. It brings more people and publicity to the Little Four. How could that be bad?

  • dewright said,

    GDS is going to continue to do what is in the academic best interests of its students. That is first and foremost. If a student needs to repeat a year in order to develop better footing for the academic rigors of the school, then that is what will happen.

    GDS is not re-classifying students for athletics purposes. I understand that intent may not matter and that, yes, a reclassified student — for any reason — will still possibly be a year older than his or her classmates. However, the NCISAA has a rule that states one cannot turn 19 before the first day of the school year and still play sports. The age requirement in the NCHSAA is probably the same. As a result, does it really make any difference?

    How many 8th graders have actually played hoops for GDS? Jason Capel is the only one I can think of, and that was in the early 1990s and he ended up leaving when his dad went to ODU.

    And why are you complaining about 8th graders anyway? Are they better than your 12th graders? I think not.

    I still would love for someone to state clearly what competitive advantage GDS has based on the reclassification issue. If the AGE restriction is the same in the NCHSAA as the NCISAA, then what we know is that no one on the court turned 19 before the first day of school. It follows to reason, then, that what we are talking about is an overall category known as “U-19 sports as of the first day of school”, and everyone has a level playing field there.

  • frank said,

    dewright,
    Here is a simple, clear explaination of the advantage gained by having 5th year players. Two players enter high school at the same time, same age etc. As freshmen they average 5 points a game, as sophomores they both improve and average 10 points a game. They both work hard with their coaches in the offseason and as juniors average 15 points a game. One repeats his junior year for “academic reasons”, the other doesn’t. The next year they both continue to improve and now are each averaging 20 points a game. One is off to college to play college ball, the other is back for his fifth year of high school to play against high school players again. How could he not have an advantage over the “regular” high school players he plays against. It has less to do with age and more to do with experience. He has four years of high school basketball experience under his belt playing against kids with only one, two, or three years experience. Don’t you think any team would be better if they could bring back one or two of their best players from the year before to play again? If you don’t, you clearly don’t think clearly.

    How many students at GDS who are not athletes reclassify to bring their grades up? I would bet the percentage is higher for athletes than any other segment of the student body. We will never know.

  • Thomas said,

    Frank – The scenario you imagined can’t happen. The rule is this; for NC independent schools, once a player enters the 10th grade, they have 6 consecutive semesters of eligibility. So the latest grade a student can repeat without losing athletic eligibility is 9th grade. The only difference in the rule for NC public schools is the clock begins once the student enters 9th grade, hence the 8 semesters of eligibilty. As Tom pointed out, with the age limit added in, there’s really no advantage. The decision to repeat a grade, made in 9th grade or earlier, isn’t going to be based on athletics, but academics.

    I think it’s kind of silly for the W-S public schools to let this difference in rules prevent FCDS from competing with them. I also think it’ll be a real shame the first time a senior at FCDS is forced to sit out such an event.

  • dewright said,

    To address your last question — the burden of proof is on you. When you state, as an answer to your own question, “I would bet the percentage is higher for athletes than any other segment of the student body” then you must have some sort of information to back that up, right? You would never just lob that claim out there because of your basic perception, would you? Otherwise, it’s just more conjecture (or more likely, sour grapes).

    Or perhaps, like I, you taught in the Upper School there for quite some time. That must be it. In which case I probably know you, and we should go out and have a beer sometime when I am back in town.

    Nope, probably not that one, either.

    Overall, you are still missing the picture. There is an exceptional level of integrity at Greensboro Day School, and college placement concerns far outweigh anything else. If a student has no pressing need to reclassify due to academics (and this would be addressed by the faculty), then he or she is not going to be allowed to reclassify. The notion that the basketball coaching staff at GDS is reclassifying kids is a false one.

    Moreover, students at GDS do NOT receive financial aid incentives as a condition tied to playing athletics.

    Regardless, I’m still not buying your example of the reclassified student having an unfair advantage.

    “He has four years of high school basketball experience under his belt playing against kids with only one, two, or three years experience. ”

    Nothing wrong with this. The average senior has more experience than the average junior. Is that unfair? Is it unfair for the senior who made varsity as a 9th grader to play against the senior who made varsity as an 11th grader because he has two more years of experience? Using your argument, it seems to be. Since they all start the year off under the age of 19, then, again, the playing field (or court) is level.

    There is always going to be an experience disparity between athletes.

  • mark said,

    okay – thomas or dewright or anyone else who makes it sound like kids can’t play more years of private school ball than public school ball please explain this situation to me.

    I don’t know this for fact but I assume Westchester follows the NCSIAA rules the same as GDS. Now they have an incredibly talented sophomore by the name of Duece Bello.

    Bello is a sophomore playing his third year of high school ball. He started at Ragsdale as a freshman the same year as Jay Canty. Canty is also playing his third year of ball but he is a junior. Two years from now Canty will be a freshman at High Point U. Bello meanwhile will be a senior at Westchester playing an extra year of high school basketball.

    Now please tell me how a kid as talented as Bello playing as a fifth year senor doesn’t give Westschester a distinct advantage over a regular public high school. I mean I can only imagine how good Jay Canty would be for Ragsdale if he could play two more years for them after this season.

    Look – I have no problem with the privates reclassing kids. I think it is a great thing for a player like Bello to get an extra year to get academics in order all while playing an extra year of basketball. He’ll be a better college student and basketball player because of it.

    Since public shools don’t compete against private schools for state championships I have no problems when a school like Ragsdale plays Westchester or GDS in a tournament. Ragsdale will only get better playing better competition. But please don’t pretend that kids don’t get an extra year to play ball and don’t pretend they don’t have an advantage over public shools because of it.

  • Grey said,

    Mark…well said, and right on point…especially your last paragraph…I think its great that these teams play each other in holiday-type tournaments.

    One other point that can be made is that this is not only about talent but the experience and leadership that ‘upperclassmen’ bring to a team. They dont have to be the most skilled or talented players on the team, but if they have been through it and know how to guide their team, it is invaluable. This is, in my opinion, is where some of these coaches really earn their money. Helping to create leaders out of ‘experienced’ players that will be valuable to their team, but that may never play a second of college basketball.

  • Thomas said,

    Mark – Addressing your example, the public schools athletic association and the independent schools athletic associations are two different bodies whose jurisdictions do not overlap. So, in your example, when Bello moved from Ragsdale to Westchester, he regraded and is now under independent school rules. The reason for the regrading is likely that Westchester’s academics are more demanding and he had some catching up to do. Any student can move from a public school to an independent school (and vice versa) and regrade without losing eligibility, once. So a freshman from from Westchester could transfer to Ragsdale and repeat freshman year without penalty.

    Ultimitely all are limited by age.

    From the NCISAA (independent schools) rules…”No player shall have reached his/her 19th birthday on or before August 1 of the current school year. (For the 08-09 school year, this birth date would be 8-1-89.)”

    The public schools have a similar rule but you have to buy their rule book. It isn’t on-line like the independent schools’ or I’d quote it directly.

    I can back up dewright’s comments about the integrity of the athletic department at GDS. Like him, my knowledge comes from personal experience over many years. Athletics are never a factor in the decision to regrade. Those decisions are made (actually recommendations, the final decision is with the student’s family) by academic staff for purely academic reasons. Financial aid eligibilityis determined by a third party agency and the paperwork for aid includes no mention of athletics or any other extra-curricular activity. It is the same agency used by most colleges. It is located in another state and the only info used in the decision is the family’s financial status.

  • Frank said,

    Thomas,
    You said “Any student can move from a public school to an independent school (and vice versa) and regrade without losing eligibility, once. So a freshman from from Westchester could transfer to Ragsdale and repeat freshman year without penalty.”

    A student can reclass in the public school but has only eight semesters of athletic eligibility once he enters 9th grade. So if he comes from a private school and repeats his 9th grade year at a public school he cannot play sports his senior year. The public school age rule is similar to the private school one. The issue is the advantage gained by playing a fifth year of high school basketball and it is a huge advantage. Public school students only get eight semesters of playing time, private school players can have ten if they choose to.

    Whether you want to admit it or not GDS gains a huge advantage having fifth year players whether they reclassed for academic or athletic reasons. FCDS did the right thing agreeing not to play those players against public schools in the county tournaments. GDS should do the same. If the Pizza Hut Little Four is billed as a high school tournament it should be played as one, not as a tournament where you go out and get prep schools with different rules. GDS won’t agree to the change because they are already entrentched in the L4. They don’t want to give up their advantage. Would they have won without Mitchel, a 6’9″ fifth year senior, or the MVP kid who someone on this board said has played in six Little Fours. Maybe, maybe not. The least they should do is quit trying to act like it isn’t an advantage and admit that they gain quite a bit from using fifth y ear players. If it wasn’t such an advantage why do college football teams redshirt so many player? Because the extra year makes them bigger, stronger, smarter and better. The same way an extra year of high school can help GDS players.

    You aren’t going to like this next statement and will attack it with your academic integrity arguement but it is true. When I was in high school in the early 90’s my best friend was asked to come test at GDS and play basketball there. They told him he was probably going to have to reclass. He was a rising junior. He had already scored 1580 on the SAT. When they mentioned reclassing he laughed and decided to stay where he was.

  • Tom said,

    I would hope that all of the individuals who believe that GDS has an unfair advantage also think that Dudley, Grimsley, Page, etc have a distinct advanatge. Any county school that has academies, IB programs and any other vehicle for getting athletes to come to their school has an advantage. I have come to grips with the idea that schools are not equal and I think the players have as well. If you ask the players at Ragsdale, Dudley, Northern, etc.. if they want to play GDS, you would get a resounding “YES”. The parents and the fans have the problem. Playing GDS does not affect your conference schedule and your ability to get in the state tournament, so why does this hit such a nerve?